Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 3

2 Timothy 1:3-14; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; Proverbs 22:6

I love the perspective which the Lord impressed upon Jim McCallie and which he emphasized to some of us on Monday night at our evening prayer time: that this week of fasting, however you are approaching it, is not about what we can’t do, but about what we get to do and are being invited into. I’m grateful for that thought. It helped me so much already. I hope it encourages you as you start day 3.

Our focus today is a big one: our families and children and the next generation. I love the reading from 2 Timothy 1 today. Paul identifies 3 generations of faithfulness in a single family tree. He is writing to a faithful young man named Timothy, whose mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were also followers of Jesus. Paul also credits the faith of his own ancestors, though we don’t know to whom he’s specifically referring. What I love about this is the real life glimpse at the gospel taking root in a family and then getting passed on to the next generation.

God loves families. Family is God’s idea. He’s a Father after all. And his covenant people are his precious children who comprise a heavenly and eternal family. So, when we talk about family we’re talking about something God cherishes. God loves our children and and he loves this next generation. His heart for them is infinitely bigger than ours, and that’s true not only for those we think of as the best of the next generation, but also for those we think of as the worst of the next generation. So, when he sees our children developing, growing, maturing, struggling, failing, succeeding, hurting, harming, rebelling or responding - whatever the case may be - he is not surprised by them, nor repelled by them, nor finished withe them.

We ride waves of emotion as parents - fatigue, anxiety, hope, confidence, joy, dread, to name a few. We read books and blogs, listen to podcasts and pastors, ask mentors and friends, searching for answers to the challenges of parenting, trying to generate some certainties. Yet certainty eludes us. We live in scary times with overwhelming difficulties and terrifying possibilities for our kids. The easiest thing in the world as a parent is be driven by fear. But this faith of ours; the faith of Lois, Eunice and Timothy; the faith of Paul too; all of it is faith. It’s all a matter of trusting God - His word, His wisdom, and His ways - over what we feel and fear.

My parents grew up with parents who did not follow Jesus. But God in his mercy adopted them into his family. I’m a second generation follower of Jesus. Heck, I’m a second generation pastor. My kids would be the third generation of Rowell’s to know and love Jesus. That’s not small at all. That matters. But here’s the thing. I worry. I worry about my flaws and shortcomings and mistakes and failures. I worry about the world around them and the influences in their lives and the appetites of their flesh. I worry that the saving work of God in our family could miss a generation. And that it might be my fault. There’s a lot working against them and us.

Reading 2 Timothy this morning gives me hope. It renews my faith for our third generation. But maybe you’re the first. What a gift to future generations it is for you to begin shaping a legacy of faith in Jesus for those who will come after you. Maybe you’re a second generation Christian. What a gift you have received from your own parents and what an opportunity worthy of your life. You get take the baton and run your leg of the race and hand it to the next runner. Your life counts. Maybe your third generation or beyond. How rich you are, that you’ve been blessed with aliveness to God as a multi-generational storyline. That’s amazing. I hope you’re grateful.

But here’s what this has stirred in my heart for today. I get anxious and unsettled and fearful regarding the current landscape of our world and the coordinated attack of the world, the flesh and the devil against my kids, and the children in our church, and this whole next generation. Fear keeps me praying small prayers like crossing my fingers and just hoping God will draw my children to faith of just the most meager sort. Don’t get me wrong, their salvation is a massive deal and a miracle and we should pray for that. But Paul's word to Timothy urge us to not stop there. Let’s not see God as so weak and busied and distracted with more important things so as to treat our kids as an afterthought. Multiple times throughout the Scriptures God articulates an inclination on his part to faithfully redeem and reconcile the offspring of those who love him to the thousandth generation.

Are you kidding me?! I struggle to pray in faith for just this one generation. But God tells us his heart is already to bless and save and sanctify to a thousand generations. What if we started taking him and his heart seriously? What if we stopped fretting over each day our kids act out or even freaking out over prolonged seasons of not seeing spiritual fruit, or over uncertain development? What if we started praying in faith that God would do for our children and their children and their children’s children exactly what he has said he would do, even to the thousandth generation.

What if we stopped trying to fix our kids and started focusing on our own faithfulness to the Lord and persistent and dependent prayer to the Lord on behalf of our children and future generations. I wonder what would happen if we all started praying… not prayed once, but started praying persistently and daily for God’s faithfulness to the next generation and beyond all the way to the tenth and hundredth and thousandth generation. What if we condition the soil of future generations with bold, steadfast and dogged prayer for them? I wonder what would happen. I don’t know… but there’s only one way to find out. Let’s dig in and get after it, starting now. 

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